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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio's Staff Fed Up With His Capricious and Insular Management Style

                                                   NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio

How I wish we New Yorkers could be proud of our loyalty to New York City, the city that never sleeps!

Of course, I keep saying that I am a proud New Yorker, but even to me, it sounds hollow and fake.

Our Mayor is Bill de Blasio. Arguably the worst Mayor New York has ever had. Ok- I'm ready for the naysayers! I really would love to hear how someone in NYC's glorious past, another Mayor was worse than Bill in managing the city and his own staff. And wife.

That is the story here - how frustrated insiders who work for Mayor Bill feel the "often capricious and insular management style that sources describe as “emotionally, mentally and physically taxing” — and a major contributor to City Hall’s planning struggles and the exodus of administration staffers."

How long before he leaves office? More than a year?

Oh gosh.

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog

Bill de Blasio’s City Hall rife with dysfunction, bombshell emails reveal

Nolan Hicks, NY POST, September 17, 2020

New York is beset by a surge in deadly shootings, homeless have taken over city blocks amid the coronavirus lockdown and officials cannot get schools back open, but City Hall is taking one thing seriously — arguing the racial sensitivity of a proclamation to commemorate women’s suffrage.

The nod to the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage was supposed to just be a “note” in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily coronavirus briefing, but it ended up triggering a meltdown among his staffers, emails obtained by The Post show.

The imbroglio is symptomatic of de Blasio’s often capricious and insular management style that sources describe as “emotionally, mentally and physically taxing” — and a major contributor to City Hall’s planning struggles and the exodus of administration staffers.

“It is amateur hour. It’s a bunch of people who have no idea how City Hall works running the show because everyone else has left,” said one former staffer. “There are a lot of sharp elbows, it’s very vicious and very personal — and it gets in the way of focusing on the work at hand.”

The talking points prepared for de Blasio’s briefing on Aug. 26 noted that segregation and other laws meant that “not all women could exercise that right” to vote following the formal adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “Women of color excluded – fought for decades for equal access,” it added.

At 9:49 a.m., 11 minutes before the briefing was scheduled to begin, the email chain exploded.

Ashley Ross-Teel, pictured at left, who runs City Hall’s social media accounts, demanded that the talking points explicitly point out that only white women initially gained access to the voting booth. And she criticized the talking points saying women of color were discriminated against, instead of singling out African American women.

“Sorry, but why wasn’t white women added when it was flagged by [women of color],” she wrote. “Also there is growing negativity around incorporating Black women into WOC. Everyone’s struggles are not the same.”

Three minutes later, the author of the bullet points fired back.

“Because as a white woman, I find being negged for something that happened 100 years ago unnecessarily confrontational in this context,” wrote Marjorie Sweeney. “We’re trying to bring people together here, not trying to score points off each other.”

At least two other high-ranking de Blasio aides were pulled into the fight, offering last-minute suggestions that were signed off on by de Blasio’s recently hired $17,000-a-month special adviser, Peter Kauffmann at 10:03 am.

The briefing was already late.

De Blasio specifically referenced white women in his remarks that morning, but kept the initially proposed description of “women of color.”

“Not all women” could vote, he said, referencing the notes, which are kept in a small black binder. “Only white women — women of color excluded and they had to fight for many decades more.”

Afterward, his Chief of Staff Emma Wolfe chastised the staffers.

                                                         Marjorie Sweeney, speechwriter

“This should never have been a debate, not the least of which over email,” Wolfe wrote, demanding the communications staff find a “more professional process” to haggle over their differences.

Three former administration staffers said the blow-up is a symptom of the departure of experienced top aides, which they attributed to de Blasio’s mercurial nature, the stress of the coronavirus pandemic and months of protests — including by his own staff — demanding police and civil rights reforms.

“He will just blow everything up on a whim and it’s a domino effect,” one ex-staffer said. “It leads to avoidable last-minute scrambles on everything” — from key policy decisions to the briefing notes.

In theory, the work that goes into assembling the binder for de Blasio’s briefings should be largely complete by the morning. But Hizzoner often demands last-minute rewrites for little reason right up until he walks into the briefing, another source said. That leaves everyone stressed and under-the-gun, leading to eruptions.

“There are a lot of really smart and dedicated people at City Hall who love New York and he prevents them from doing their jobs effectively,” the person added. “It’s him, it lies at the top, it really does.”

The sources said the problems are particularly severe in the mayor’s press and communications departments, which de Blasio depends on to help vet and roll out policy in addition to the typical duties of drafting speeches and handling reporter inquiries.

The heads of both — former Press Secretary Freddi Goldstein and former Communications Director Wiley Norvell — quit on the same day in July without having lined up new jobs. Only Goldstein has been replaced so far.

“Infighting like this on an email chain, it’s an example of dysfunction and the unhappiness people are feeling,” added yet another person familiar.

De Blasio press secretary Bill Neidhardt responded, “Debating talking points is a basic function of all communications offices. That’s what you’re seeing here. In the end, the Mayor makes the call and he acknowledged our country’s painful history of denying women of color the right to vote.”

Gov. Cuomo blasts de Blasio over ‘waste’ in NYC budget

Chirlane McCray’s COVID-19 trauma program left out EMTs

Chirlane McCray enjoys $2M staff of 14 amid NYC budget crisis
                                                                   Chirlane McCray

NYC Council Education Chair Mark Treyger and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams Criticize NYC Mayor For Schools' Repoening Chaos


                                                                 Mark Treyger



250 Broadway, Suite 1785
New York, NY 10007
(212) 788-7045

Thursday, September 17, 2020
Contact: Maria Henderson | 646-891-8441 |  

NEW YORK, NY - Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams and Council Member 

Mark Treyger, Education Chair, released the following joint statement after the Mayor announced another delay in school re-opening, just four days before the previous revised re-opening date of September 21 and after over 50 schools citywide have reported COVID-19 cases among staff. Council Education Chair Treyger released his school reopening proposal in July 2020. 


"It's obvious that in-person schooling needed to be delayed - it has been, as we have said, for months - and it's just as obvious that the Mayor's so-called strategy of bringing us to the brink over and over is misguided and detrimental. The insistence on reopening as soon as possible, at any cost, is a strategy doomed to keep students and parents, teachers, and administrators on the line only to pull a bait and switch again and again. The city needs time to increase staff, yes- but without also increasing safety measures, we will only see cases rise and time and lives lost. 

"COVID-19 and disastrous state-level budget cuts have put our education system in crisis, and the Mayor's lack of a clear vision and a clear plan are only deepening that crisis. There are ways to address childcare concerns, ways to better serve students most in need, but ignoring these methods in favor of a broad reopening by an ever-shifting date has only created more chaos, including for parents whose own plans rely on a City that doesn't have one. 

"The City needs to utilize this extra time, as they should have all along, to order and review the supply of technology devices available for students and staff. Remote learning will always be part of this school year, and all students should have access to quality technology, regardless of their zip code.

"The Mayor argues that the plan changes only as the reality does, but fails to accept the self-evident reality that the safest, smartest choice has always been to open the school year remotely before phasing in in-person learning as safety standards - not a schedule - warrant."


250 Broadway, Suite 1785
New York, NY 10007
(212) 788-7045

Thursday, September 17, 2020
Contact: Maria Henderson | 646-891-8441 |

IBO Report Confirms Council Education Chair Treyger’s Assertion that NYSED & CDC School Reopening Guidance Adds Millions in New Weekly Costs for NYC Schools

A Report Released by the Independent Budget Office (IBO) Illustrates Staggering Cost Estimates to Meet New Health Guidelines Related to COVID-19

BROOKLYN, NY (September 17, 2020) -- Today, the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) released its findings for the additional weekly cost of operating New York City’s public schools while complying with New York State public health and education guidance prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Council Education Chair Mark Treyger requested the independent report from the IBO in July 2020. The new report projects that the additional costs could increase to $32 million per week across multiple city agencies. The IBO was unable to account for childcare provided by Learning Bridges; increased costs borne by community-based early childhood education providers; or additional capital expenditures, like HVAC upgrades, new technology purchases, and air filtration systems. All of these costs will likely significantly increase the cost of school reopening.

Many of the new expense estimates are directly correlated with implementing and adhering to new NYSED and CDC safety guidance measures for school reopening, as well as the New York City Department of Education’s (DOE) school reopening plan that was submitted to the State. Council Education Chair Treyger identified that reopening schools would likely incur additional costs in his school reopening white paper, and the IBO has confirmed that in their recent case study. In order to execute a safe and functional reopening of the largest school system in the nation, it is crucial that the City examines additional funding sources to meet the new costs that schools did not have last year.

Critically, the IBO does not identify a funding stream for these additional expenditures. With the decision by the Trump Administration to limit the City's ability to obtain federal reimbursement for PPE and cleaning, and the financial crisis experienced by the City and the State, the IBO acknowledges the expectation that some of these expenditures will be paid for using existing school budgets, possibly reducing other school-based programming.

Highlights from the IBO report include:

* $20,391,900 is the cost of additional teachers and nurses needed per week, over 60% of the additional costs to operate NYC schools. As many large schools are now pivoting to having students learn virtually within the school building, and teachers being asked to teach remote and in-person students simultaneously, it is clear that these additional staffing costs represent a crisis for a hybrid model.

* IBO expects the cost of PPE across all school-based staff to total $2.8 million each week, with more than 941,000 masks comprising $1.7 million of that cost. This includes masks for all school-based staff, students, school bus employees, school bus riders, custodial staff, and school food employees. Additional costs are for other PPE, including gloves and face shields, for employees who are in close contact with students, such as school nurses and special education paraprofessionals.

* Custodial costs—including spending for PPE, custodial supplies, and labor costs associated with the extra cleaning—will total nearly $6 million a week and account for more than 17 percent of the additional costs. Thus far, DOE has stated that they expect this cleaning to be completed using existing custodial budgets, at the expense of other work, including routine maintenance.

* Transportation costs would be significantly higher if DOE is forced to add buses in order to comply with social distancing requirements or if DOE has to reimburse parents for alternate methods of transportation.

* Total costs could increase based on capital upgrades, such as costs for upgrading HVAC systems, purchasing air filters for classrooms, and purchasing additional tablets and hotspots to meet students’ technology needs.

“I continue to reiterate to my colleagues in government that, in order to safely reopen our city’s schools, we have to identify new funding to address the extraordinary new costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new IBO estimates, in concert with the ever-changing guidance from the DOE as it struggles to operate within existing resources, demonstrate the extent of the need,” said Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair of the Committee on Education. “With federal aid unlikely to arrive any time soon, the State and City must act. The Governor has paused his disastrous 20% cuts to education aid, but only temporarily. I have been very clear: the City needs long-term borrowing authority, and additional funding from the State to safely reopen schools. We cannot reopen schools before it is safe to do so."

You can access the NYC Independent Budget Office full report on School Reopening Cost Estimates here.

Mayor Bill de Blasio Delays In-Person Learning in a Staggered Schedule For Different Grades


                                  NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio


The news changes by the minute. Previously this morning De Blasio delayed re-opening schools in grades 6-12, indefinitely. Then he changed his mind to:

"In-person learning will now start on Sept. 29 for kids in grades kindergarten through eight. Middle schools and high schools will now re-open in-person learning on Oct. 1.

Pre-k and 3-k students will still re-open on Sept. 21, the original in-person start date."

I cannot imagine what parents, educators, or staff are thinking. What plans can anyone make right now for home care needs, medical accommodations, etc? What happens if a parent has a child in pre-k and 4th grade. Who stays home with the 4th grader when the parent takes the pre-k child to/from school. What does a parent tell his/her employer? Bill de Blasio has let parents down with fake promises

All of this chaos costs plenty, and the budget as it stands right now cannot handle the $millions of dollars NYC needs to supply the necessary teachers, staff, and safety equipment.

We need to see a director who can do comprehensive project management as if this was an emergency.

Wait. This is an emergency. We need new eyes to create a new way to fund education in a pandemic. We can and must do this. 

NY Daily News, Sept. 17, 2020

Mayor de Blasio pushed back in-person school re-openings Thursday over concerns raised by union leaders.

In-person learning will now start on Sept. 29 for kids in grades kindergarten through eight. Middle schools and high schools will now re-open in-person learning on Oct. 1.

Pre-k and 3-k students will still re-open on Sept. 21, the original in-person start date.

“There are some blanks that we need to fill in," teachers union leader Michael Mulgrew said Thursday at a press conference with de Blasio. “We must make sure we get this right."

De Blasio said teacher staffing levels are the biggest concern and announced Thursday that the city will bring in another 2,500 teachers, in addition to the 2,000 he previously announced, bringing the total to 4,500 additional teachers.

De Blasio to delay in-person learning for grades 6-12

Julia Marsh and Selim Algar, NY POST, September 17, 2020

Under mounting pressure from unions and elected officials, Mayor de Blasio will delay in-person learning for students in grades 6-12, the Post has learned.

De Blasio is expected to announce Thursday that classroom learning will proceed Monday for elementary school children but will be suspended indefinitely for older kids, sources said.

Critics have howled that the Department of Education was not prepared to revive city school buildings amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Teachers have questioned testing protocols and protective gear provisions while union officials have stressed acute staffing shortages.

A total of 58 percent of city parents had opted for a blended learning model that would have them alternate between classroom and home learning.

MORE-UFT Response to the Mayor’s Announcement of a Delayed Start – Again

by morecaucusnyc

While MORE supports the idea of a responsible, phased-in, equitable reopening plan with a remote start to the year, the Mayor’s latest announcement is not it.  And while UFT leadership takes credit for this short delay, we know that this wouldn’t have happened without MORE and rank-and-file UFT members in the streets this entire past week independent of UFT leadership. We also know that unfortunately, this is yet another superficial, top-down fix that does little to make the Mayor’s plan safer or more equitable. 

As educators, we know that children and families need stability and clear communication from the Department of Education. The announcement today continues to erode trust that educators and families have in the Department of Education to keep our school communities safe. 

This 7-9 day delay will just cause more chaos and stress for working families and school staff without addressing the many underlying problems with the Mayor’s reopening plan. D75 schools have been reporting unsafe working and learning conditions all week, yet they are slated to reopen as planned on the 21st without any additional resources or support for busing, safety, or instruction. Other grade levels are delayed by just 7-9 days, without any indication that the numerous safety concerns raised by parents and staff around COVID testing, ventilation, lunch, or PPE supplies will be addressed in that time, nor that the city will address major issues with remote learning. And although we welcome the idea of hiring more staff, at best, this seems like a temporary solution since the staff being hired are not certified pedagogues and it's not clear that the funding for these staff exists or is permanent.

Unless this short delay is used to ensure mandatory testing for all students and building workers, ensure that all buildings are upgraded with the necessary safety measures and have enough staff, ensure that every building has a social worker, counselor, and nurse, ensure staff teaching remotely can work from home, and ensure that all children have WiFi and working devices, it will be a waste of energy and impose needless stress on families. 

We urge the city and the UFT to end this roller coaster and announce full remote school at least until January.

As part of this, the city must expand REC centers so that every family who needs childcare can have it five days a week(instead of just one or two) and so that our students with disabilities can have in-person services if they choose to. Mayor de Blasio has stated there will only be 30,000 childcare spots in its Learning Bridges Program which will be fully rolled out by December: this is unacceptable in a city with 1.1 million students. This is particularly essential for our housing insecure students who may not have access to WiFi where they are living. As part of remote learning, the city should also provide support for every school to use outdoor space and other spaces to supplement remote learning with opportunities for socialization. The time we gain from a remote start should be used to plan a community-driven phased-in reopening that follows the science and prioritizes the students that need the most support-- including students with IEPs, ELLs, and our youngest learners. It should also be used to expand testing capacity across the city so that we can mandate testing for 100% of students and staff, upgrade all school buildings and get feedback from stakeholders on an ultimate equitable, phased-in plan. 

The Mayor has ignored and gaslit stakeholders for months and now we’re seeing the results: a chaotic unsafe reopening that doesn’t serve the needs of students or families.